Gallerist Audrey Yeo Transforms This Former Ship Repairs Workshop And Warehouse Into A Pop-Up Art Destination
Audrey Yeo has had her eye on the conserved building at 2 Cavan Road from as early as 2013, when she returned to Singapore after a working stint in London. While the founder of contemporary art gallery Yeo Workshop is no real estate developer, she saw potential in the property—formerly a ship repairs workshop and warehouse dating to the 1930s—as a pop-art art destination.
“I had a very romantic idea about the space, so I wrote letters to the then-owner, slipping them under the door. There are a lot of properties in London where you can do art experiences in a garage or a church, but there weren’t many spaces like these here,” shares Yeo, who also helms the Singapore Arts Club, which offers a platform for artists to reach a wider audience as well as further art appreciation in Singapore.
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While her letters previously went unanswered, new owner Kheng Leong Company (the real estate investment firm acquired the property last June) heard her call and offered the space, before demolition work begins to turn the three-storey art deco building into a boutique hotel. (As per its status, the front and side of the building, including two- and three-storey structures, have to be conserved.)
After a frenzied past few months of planning, the Singapore Arts Club is staging its biggest pop-up art takeover in the 20,000sqft space, with experiential art show Twenty Twenty. The first curated art experience, titled Strange Things, takes place from January 10 to 28, running alongside the Singapore Art Week. The exhibition, which also includes talks and workshops, brings together artists from Singapore and around the world who will present site-specific works that pay tribute to the history and architecture of the building through performance, video and installation.
“It’s a very creative approach,” enthuses Yeo. “We are very strict with how we bring up shows in the gallery—it’s very methodical. But with this building, it is very intuitive—we are thinking about how the audience can encounter the building so that the experience is about the site and the art, and not just about the art.” For example, Singaporean artist Dawn Ng addresses the concept of time and space with her installation of folding mirrors; Thai artist Santi Wangchuan presents an installation of woven works; and Vietnamese artist Tuan Mami looks at environmental degradation in sand and limestone mining, which are essential for land reclamation, in his poetic video work.
There are other exhibitions, talks and workshops in the works for Twenty Twenty, and maybe even a supper club. Yeo explains, “I would like to make our platform accessible to as many people: artists and audiences as well as corporations and businesses who have interest in the arts—whether in coming up with new ideas or working with artists on new projects.”
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Singaporean visual artist Dawn Ng explores the concept of time and space in her latest work
From her Walter the Rabbit (2010) series of guerrilla installations around Singapore to her performance piece 11 at the Telok Ayer Arts Club last year, Dawn Ng is no stranger to presenting her art outside of the traditional “white cube” gallery space.
This month, the Singaporean visual artist presents her latest work, Merry Go Round, on the ground floor of 2 Cavan Road. The site-specific installation takes inspiration from the history and architecture of the conserved building, which has been transformed by the Singapore Arts Club for a six-month art takeover with the experiential show, Twenty Twenty.
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Merry Go Round follows Ng’s current fascination with “holding time in an ephemeral form”. One of these forms includes ice, which is evident when you scroll through her Instagram feed. “I’ve been freezing large blocks of pigment in the last two years and documenting their disintegration.”
She tells us about the space at 2 Cavan Road and her monumental installation.
What is it about presenting art outside the gallery space that excites you?
Dawn Ng (DN) The uniqueness of each environment gives the work something to creatively wrestle and negotiate with. The sheer scale of the space [at 2 Cavan Road] is such a thrilling canvas.
How did the history and architecture of 2 Cavan Road inspire your installation Merry Go Round?
DN Spanning nearly 20m in radius, Merry Go Round is a massive orbit of folding mirrors and gradient hues that soar skywards. The first time I entered the warehouse, I was struck by how time has stood still, or rather, collapsed in on itself in this colossal space. Alluding to the celestial ring of light encircling a black hole, the installation serves as a response to how time could be condensed to a scintillating moment. Merry Go Round allows one to be confronted by facets of splintered time and self, as a sense of energy radiates both inward and outward through both reflection and refraction.
(Related: The Wonder Room In Hong Kong Is An Experimental Pop-Up Art Installation Meets Teahouse)
Can you share an interesting fact that you discovered about the building?
DN One of the most beautiful spaces is the apartment on the third floor as it used to be a residential suite for the owners. The terrazzo and tiling are from another time.
- Images Singapore Arts Club and Dawn Ng